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This Way Out Radio Episode #1817 : "AIDS Diva: The Legend of Connie Norman"

An award-winning documentary examines the exploits of Los Angeles’ iconic transgender ACT-UP activist. Director Dante Alencastre and writer-researcher John Johnston chat with This Way Out’s Brian DeShazor about the “AIDS Diva” whose life inspired the film.

And in NewsWrap: Taiwan opens civil marriage to foreign same-gender spouses (except those from China), the U.K. attempts to pull rank over Scotland’s easing of gender identity requirements, the Dutch Senate votes to add sexual orientation and disability to the groups protected under the Constitution, the European Court of Human Rights orders Russia to recognize the rights of same-gender couples, the E.U. Court of Justice rules in favor of a freelancer’s workplace discrimination claim against a Polish broadcaster, U.S. students lose a federal lawsuit against anti-queer schools, Des Moines' Catholic diocese "disappears" trans people, and more international LGBTQ news reported this week by Joe Boehnlein and Ava Davis (produced by Brian DeShazor).

All this on the January 23, 2023 edition of This Way Out!

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Complete Program Summary
for the week of January 23, 2023

AIDS Diva: The Legend of Connie Norman

Program #1,817 distributed 01/23/23
Hosted this week Lucia Chappelle and produced with Greg Gordon

NewsWrap (full transcript below): Taiwan’s Interior Ministry suddenly drops its ban on queer citizens marrying their betrothed if the partner’s homeland won’t recognize it, but keeps the ban on spouses from China [with brief comments by Taiwanese activist Victoria Hsu] … the U.K.’s right-wing government moves to block royal assent for a measure overwhelmingly approved by Scotland’s Parliament to allow trans people 16 years of age or older to change their legal gender without a previously required medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria [with brief comments by Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon] … the Dutch Senate completes a 12-year process to add LGB people, and people with disabilities, to anti-discrimination protections in the nation’s Constitution … the European Court of Human Rights orders Russia to legally recognize same-gender couples, which, as with previous E.U. court rulings, Vladimir Putin will ignore … Russia’s media regulators are yanking well-known queer-themed movies like Call Me By Your Name and Brokeback Mountain from streaming services, citing the December-amended law against “the promotion of non-traditional sexual relations” that now applies to all Russians and foreign visitors and not just among minors … the European Court of Justice rules that Polish state TV broadcaster TVP violated E.U. workplace anti-bias protections for firing a freelance worker after he and his husband appeared in a video promoting queer couples … a U.S. federal judge sympathizes with LGBTQ students denied admission to or expelled from religiously-based colleges or universities, but dismisses their discrimination lawsuit because she believes that Congress did not specifically ban that bias in Title IX legislation … and the Des Moines, Iowa Roman Catholic Diocese issues “dangerous” policies that essentially “disappear” transgender people from its churches and schools (written by GREG GORDON, edited by LUCIA CHAPPELLE, reported this week by JOE BOEHNLEIN and AVA DAVIS, produced by BRIAN DeSHAZOR).

Feature: At the height of the AIDS pandemic, trans activist Connie Norman took it to the streets as an iconic presence in the Los Angeles chapter of ACT-UP, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power. A legend in her own time, her fame was fading until filmmakers Dante Alencastre and John Johnston captured her story in the award-winning documentary AIDS Diva: The Legend Of Connie Norman. This Way Out’s BRIAN DESHAZOR gifts us with audio from the film and a compelling conversation with the filmmakers (with intro music by NONA HENDRYX).


A summary of some of the news in or affecting global LGBTQ communities
for the week ending January 21, 2023
Written by Greg Gordon, edited by Lucia Chappelle,
reported this week by Joe Boehnlein & Ava Davis,
and produced by Brian DeShazor

Taiwan’s Ministry of the Interior has abruptly reversed course on civil marriage rights. The January 19th rule change recognizes bi-national same-gender couples, even if the non-Taiwanese spouse’s homeland does not.

The ban on bi-national couples registering their marriages came through an Interior Ministry directive soon after the passage of marriage equality legislation. That 2019 law made Taiwan the first in Asia to open the civil institution to queer couples.

The lone exception now is China. Government officials cited national security concerns for the exemption.

The Taipei Administrative High Court has ruled in favor of five bi-national couples since March of 2021. Local Household Registration Office were ordered to legally register their marriages. The cases involved Taiwanese citizens and their same-gender partners from Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Malaysia and Singapore. It’s not yet clear if marriages involving partners from Hong Kong and Macau will be part of the China exclusion.

Victoria Hsu is with the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights. She joined several advocacy groups to applaud the policy change in a TaiwanPlus News interview posted to YouTube:

[SOUND: Hsu]

Many transnational same sex couples were forced to separate because they could not get married. And now they will have the option to get married and start a family in Taiwan. This is very important change in the lives of these people, and of course a huge progress towards equality.

Activists celebrated while vowing to push for Taiwanese citizens and their Chinese partners to someday be able to register their marriages.

Scotland’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill is being blocked by the United Kingdom in a move that calls into question just how “united” the kingdom really is. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced this week that his Conservative Party government would halt implementation of the law. It would allow trans people 16 or older to change their legal gender on government ID’s by a simple declaration, and without a previously required medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

The bill passed in the Scottish Parliament in December by an overwhelming 86-to-39 majority. However U.K. Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack cites Section 35 of the Scotland Act of 1998 to justify denying the measure its usually routine royal assent. Jack’s statement explains that he is, “concerned that this legislation would have an adverse impact on the operation of Great Britain-wide equalities legislation.”

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warns that the unprecedented action could spark a constitutional crisis. She told the U.K.’s TV Channel 4:

[SOUND: Sturgeon]

Well, if there is a decision to challenge, I think it will be using trans people – already one of the most vulnerable, stigmatized groups in our society – as a political weapon, and I think that would be unconscionable. If the U.K. government is able to normalize action to block legislation democratically passed by the Scottish Parliament within our areas of competence on this issue, then that will embolden them to look to do it on other issues … and we will be on a very, very slippery slope indeed.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are part of the United Kingdom, but each has its own semi-autonomous government with broad powers, including over health care. Critics see the controversy as new fuel for the Scottish nationalists’ drive to secede from the United Kingdom and become a fully independent nation.

The Dutch Senate passed a measure this week to expand discrimination protections to cover LGBTQ and disabled people. The updated Article 1 of the Netherlands’ Constitution outlaws “discrimination on the basis of religion, belief, political opinion, race, gender, disability, sexual orientation or on any other basis.”

After winning approval in the Senate by a 56-to-15 vote, the measure goes to King Willem-Alexander for his royal assent. Finally it will be formally announced with new laws in the government’s official Staatscourant publication.

The Netherlands is recognized as a protector of queer rights since becoming the first country in the world to open civil marriage to same-gender couples in 2001. Still anti-queer discrimination, violence, and bullying persist – especially in schools.

Changing the Constitution required several votes in both chambers of the Dutch legislature over the course of several national elections. It has taken activists 12 years to reach the goal. The venerable Dutch advocacy group C.O.C. Nederland calls it a “historic victory for the rainbow community.” Disability activists also hailed the expansion of constitutional anti-discrimination protections.

The European Court of Human Rights is ordering Russia to legally recognize same-gender unions. Three queer couples challenged their country’s refusal to allow them access to civil marriage.

The Russian Family Code defines the institution as a “voluntary marital union between a man and a woman.” The Court’s January 18th decision says that Russia is required to make marriage or its equivalent available to same-gender couples under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Russia was kicked out of the Council of Europe last year after Vladimir Putin launched his unprovoked war on the people of Ukraine. Russia withdrew as a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights a few months later, claiming the right to establish its own laws without outside interference. It has never abided by an E.U. court ruling.

Meanwhile, Russian agencies are using the hammer and sickle on LGBTQ-related content online and in any other media under the enhanced “no promo homo” law. Several famous queer-themed films have been beaten and slashed from Russian streaming services, including Call Me By Your Name and Brokeback Mountain.

Lawmakers expanded the ban on “the depiction of nontraditional sexual relations” in December. It had only applied to Russian minors and foreign visitors.

A gay man has won his job discrimination lawsuit in the Court of Justice of the European Union. Freelance audio-visual editor Jakub Kwieciński charged that Polish state broadcaster TVP cut him loose after he and his husband were featured in a video celebrating same-gender couples.

Based on the E.U. workplace equality directive, the Court ruled that, “sexual orientation cannot be a reason to refuse to conclude a contract with a self-employed worker.”

Poland bans employment bias based on sex, race, ethnicity or nationality, but LGBTQ workers are not protected.

Right-wing politicians have walked cheek-by-jowl with the nation’s politically powerful Roman Catholic Church to quash recent legislative proposals to add queer people to those protections.

The Euro-Court ruling sends the case back to a Warsaw court, which had asked it for guidance. The Polish court is supposed to issue a final judgment based on the Euro-Court’s ruling. There is no indication as to when that might happen.

A U.S. federal judge has ruled that religiously affiliated colleges and universities can discriminate against LGBTQ students – this despite provisions of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 that ban sex-based discrimination by federally funded educational institutions.

Judge Ann Aiken of the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon sympathized with the students who challenged Department of Education exemptions from non-discrimination requirements. She still dismissed their lawsuit against their religious schools. Aiken decided the plaintiffs could not prove that Congress specifically intended to be discriminatory with the religious exemptions in Title IX.

Some of the plaintiffs charged that they were denied admission to or were expelled from religiously affiliated universities because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Some claimed that the institutions demanded that they undergo the debunked practice of conversion therapy.

The far-right legal Alliance Defending Freedom represented religiously affiliated educational institutions in the case. Their attorneys cheered the judge’s ruling in defense of their so-called “religious liberty.”

The Religious Exemptions Accountability Project represented the students. The legal group is considering whether or not to appeal.

Finally, transgender existence is being eradicated by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Des Moines, Iowa. Its harsh new “gender identity” policies for all its parishes and schools forbid students using puberty blockers or dressing in their preferred gender. Trans people must use sex-segregated locker rooms and bathrooms that match their birth certificate gender in churches or schools. Staff is barred from respecting a student’s preferred pronouns.

The restrictions are “binding” for the diocese’s 80 parishes, 17 schools and 130,000 congregants, according to Bishop William Joensen.

The trans-erasing policies have been roundly scorned. Several local faith leaders joined LGBTQ activist groups to condemn the edict. The Interfaith Alliance of Iowa called it “dangerous,” and said that it promotes “bigotry.”

Democratic state Senator Claire Celsi wrote on Facebook that the rules “[codify] ostracism of transgender kids.” She pointedly asserted, “This is not what Jesus would do.”

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